When Amy Adams was nominated for an Academy Award, she still lived in the run-down apartment she rented when she moved to Los Angeles with movie-star dreams.
“It was a little bit of a slum,” she said. “The carpet in that place hadn’t been changed in 16 years.”
Fast-forward to today and Adams, 33, is a Hollywood princess — literally. She plays an animated Disney princess who comes to life in “Enchanted,” and her charmed career will see her share the screen with two of her idols: Meryl Streep and Frances McDormand.
Part of what got her this far is luck, Adams said, her still-wet strawberry blond hair tucked under a gray knit cap as she settled in for tea at her favorite diner. But most of her success is due to her unflagging focus — a quality that’s made her an in-demand actress, but at a cost: She’s a “kind of boring” person.
“I need hobbies,” she said. “I’ve been so focused on my career up to this point that I just read scripts and I really became a very uninteresting person. ... I’m going to spend some time researching what my true interests are outside of this, because I really do love what I do.”
Adams was still a kid when she decided performing would be her profession. She honed her dancing skills and eventually moved to Minnesota, where she worked in musical theater. Something told her she could act, but at first Adams didn’t believe it.
“As a dancer, you sort of aren’t encouraged to speak,” she said. “It took a long time to be brave enough to say I wanted to be an actress.”
About three years, actually. Once she said it, she moved to Los Angeles, and within two weeks she’d booked her first job. A few years later, Adams was mixing it up with her idols at Oscar parties and enjoying accolades for her wide-eyed performance in 2005’s “Junebug.”
Earning an Oscar nomination so early in her career didn’t diminish her focus, but it did shift her perspective: “It was like, well, now what?
“Now I can just sort of focus on the journey ... what stories do I want to tell, what characters.”
The options have been coming in ample supply. Adams was cast in “Enchanted” before earning the Oscar nomination, but the film heralds a slew of projects. She’ll next be seen in the Christmas release “Charlie Wilson’s War,” starring opposite Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman. After that comes “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day,” a film that stars McDormand.
Adams is also set to appear in “Sunshine Cleaning” with Alan Arkin and Emily Blunt, and she just started work on “Doubt,” with Hoffman and Streep.
In each of the films, Adams brings the same sunny optimism that caught critics’ eyes in “Junebug.” She seeks out joyous characters and likes playing women struggling with questions of faith.
Some of that curiosity comes from her Mormon upbringing. But it also mirrors Adams’ own quest for balance and fulfillment — balancing her private, personal life with her public, professional one.
“I like to be uber-focused. I’m not good at the balancing act of working and then life,” she said. “I tend to get a little self-absorbed when I’m working.”
It was that total immersion into character that made her the right choice for “Enchanted,” said producer Barry Josephson.
“Amy is not the kind of actor that comes to the set and asks, ‘What should I do?’ She comes to set and ... she is that thing,” he said. “She has become a character and there is no assumption of other.”
Adams was the clear choice for the princess when she read for the part, Josephson said: “She owned the character ... so much so that she showed us some things about (her) that were not on the page.”
That comes from Adams’ focus, which she has so skillfully applied to her work and now hopes to direct toward her future.
“In an ideal world, I’ll just be able to achieve balance,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s possible. We’ll see.”